Three Coffees

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Louisa -Extended Story

I was born in 1967 along with my identical twin sister.

I have been married to my husband for 25 years this year and have 2 sons aged 21 and 16.

I was brought up in a very stable, loving family home with my mum, dad, twin sister and younger sister and had a very happy childhood.

I vaguely remember going to a Sunday school when I was a child.

 

I don’t recollect thinking very much about God until senior school when I began to study Christianity in RE. I did believe in God but it was whilst taking RE for O level that I decided I didn’t want anything to do with him. As far as I was concerned I had a great earthly father so didn’t need a heavenly one and God was cruel for letting bad things happen. I was very opinionated and I remember having lots of heated discussions with the RE teacher who was a Christian.

I can’t remember why and who it was organised through but while at senior school I went to a Billy Graham crusade (who was an international preacher/evangelist) at Gloucester leisure centre. It was the first time I had heard about God & Jesus in real time, like he was relevant now. I remember at the end of the night people were asked if anyone wanted to become a Christian and I went forward. At the time I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was never followed up so I never really understood the decision I had made and didn’t think any more about it until many years later.

I went to college when I left school and got my first full time job at 17, I had my first serious boyfriend at 15. I had lots of friends, went out a lot, experimented with sex, drugs and alcohol and considered that I was fully enjoying life.

One thing I remember very clearly though, is that almost every night I would lie in bed and find myself thinking about life and death, I had all sorts of fears but also a very strong feeling like there was something more, that somehow I was missing out on something, that there had to be something more. I could never express it or put my finger on it but when I was alone it was there. I never spoke to anyone about this and assumed it was part of growing up.

When I was 19 while working as an admin clerk I met my future husband. We went out together for 6 months then got engaged.

He introduced me to his best friend and fiancé and we struck up a very close relationship.

They went to church and we had lots of discussions about Christianity. I was very opinionated and It was obvious I had a lot of questions so they invited us to go along to church.

We put it off a few times then finally one Sunday morning we went along.

I was nervous about going as I was expecting it to be serious and boring.

It was like no church I had ever been to before.

Firstly it was a modern building with seats instead of pews. It was bright and had no stained glass windows. It had a full on band instead of an organ and they clapped when they sang and the songs were lively and modern not just hymns.

Most importantly they were the happiest most welcoming bunch of people I had met. There was a buzz about the place and I felt at ease.

The vicar or pastor as they called him didn’t wear a gown and was a bubbly little man with a Liverpool accent and he played a banjo!!!

We went back several times over the next few months. I listened to what was preached and found that I was familiar with some of the bible stories and the life of Jesus through my O level RE.

One Sunday in March as I listened to the Pastor preaching about Gods love, his son Jesus and how he died for me and that he wanted a relationship with me. It wasn’t all about telling me what I couldn’t do or had done wrong. The part about being loved and accepted touched me deep inside. I felt like all my questions had been answered. The thing I felt was missing, the something I couldn’t put my finger on all made sense.

Back then I remember describing it as a “light bulb moment”. Now I understand it was divine revelation. It suddenly became crystal clear to me that God was real and Jesus was real and that he wanted a relationship with me.

It was common practice that whoever was preaching would ask if anyone wanted to respond and give their life to Jesus and they would come to the front of the church and someone would talk and pray for them.

My heart was pounding, I imagined it like some cartoon and that everyone could see it jumping out of my chest.

There was so much clarity that without any hesitation or thought of anyone else I strode to the front. I had to respond, there was no doubt in my mind. After I went to the front a lady prayed for me and explained to me the decision I had made and where I went from there.

I didn’t know at the time but at the same time my fiancee had made the same decision so we both became Christians on the same night.

It was great that we started our faith journey together and we had close friends at church who helped us. Some older couples within the church took us under their wing and helped us too. I had heard about the fact that you become one of Gods family when you become a Christian but didn’t really understand what it meant but everyone at church did treat us so kindly and generously , people celebrated that we were part of Gods family now and there was always someone there for us. We made some invaluable friendships.

We started to go to church every Sunday and some Wednesdays to a bible study which helped us learn more about the bible. I wanted to get involved in the work that church did so as I had always wanted to work with children I got involved with the children’s work which I ultimately did for 15 years.

I had always thought that Christian’s were serious, boring and never did anything fun. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were things that had to change in my life but I found that as my relationship with Jesus and my knowledge of faith grew that anything I was doing wrong just fell away. Some things were harder than others. For example I found that I stopped swearing almost immediately without even trying but giving up smoking took several months. I can honestly say that faith in Jesus has never meant that I have had to give up anything that I miss or added value to me life. Most things were not really good for me anyway and I am a happier, healthier person as a result.

We asked our Pastor if he would marry us and he agreed so in 1988 we got married. We went on to have 2 sons , one in 1991 and one in 1996.

Through going to church regularly I soon understood the main things about faith in Jesus. I believed that he was The Son of God and that he loved me and died for my sin (all the bad things I have done in my life) and that this is a continual thing as you don’t suddenly become perfect.

There were however things that I really struggled with. The biggest thing was “fear”.

Mainly this focused on the fear of losing someone close to me. This fear escalated when I had my boys. I found that if I was in control I didn’t worry but if I wasn’t I would be gripped with irrational thoughts and fears that something bad would happen. I would find myself feeling like I was dreaming but I was awake as I would have the most awful tragic thought and I would play scenario’s in my head of what could happen and how I would react. I hated my boys doing anything out of the ordinary. I was also racked with guilt at having the thoughts in the first place. I got to the stage where I felt I was going mad and finally confided in someone.

They helped me and encouraged me to look at what God said about fear. I remember looking up every verse in the bible and discovered that God didn’t want me to be bound by fear. I also discovered that the underlying thing was “TRUST”. I could trust God with most things but not the thing most precious to me, I wanted to be in control. I found I was afraid that if something happened to my boys it was the one thing I couldn’t forgive God for and I feared I would lose my faith.

The thing that set me free from fear was learning to surrender everything to God and to trust him that his ways are perfect. This wasn’t always easy to do as I liked to be in control, I held close to the scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 “ For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster. I will give you a future and a hope”.

I had read about Gods peace in the bible and how it is beyond anything we can understand and I can honestly say I have experienced this time and time again when fear or insecurity has raised its ugly head again. I surrender to God and trust him and he gives me real peace that cannot be explained.

The other fear was not being accepted or liked by other people. I hid it well by pretending that I was confident and always having something to say for myself but behind the mask I constantly compared myself to other people and would feel that I was not good enough. I would put other people on pedestals and put myself down. All the while I would put on a happy bubbly face and pretend everything was okay.

One day at a church conference another divine revelation came to me that would change my life forever. A woman speaker spoke about women as “Daughters of the King/daughters of the living God” and how special that made us. She talked about our uniqueness and value in Gods eyes. I had never fully understood this before.

They unwrapped a scripture to me in Jeremiah 1:5 “I knew you before you were formed in the womb”. I discovered that the word of God said in Psalm 139 that” I was fearfully and wonderfully made”, I was “set apart” and that my life had a “purpose and a plan” that only I could fulfil but most importantly that God created me to be “me” not to be like anyone else and that I was good enough.

God’s word was mind blowing to me and set me free from insecurity and set me on a new journey to find who I was in God and what he wanted me to do with my life. I can’t describe how totally liberating it is not to feel like I had to conform any more, that I didn’t need to be like someone else. There is so much pressure in the world today that can rob us of being happy with who we are.

I have discovered over the years thanks to my relationship with God and brilliant provisions within the church what my strengths and gifts are and how to serve others using my God given talents and abilities. God has also helped me to overcome some weaknesses and to accept that No-one is good at everything, that some are just the way I am. I have done things I never would have imagined I would.

Being a Christian does not mean that you have a perfect life, we live in the same world and experience life the same as anyone else. The main difference is that we believe that our life is not an accident, we believe in God and that he created everything, it didn’t just all come into being through some big explosion, we believe that God is in control no matter what happens.

We believe that life has bigger meaning than just being born and dying and doing the best with what you have in between.

I have been a Christian for 27 years and I have experienced loss, grief, infertility, miscarriage, marriage problems, health issues, debt and much more but I have never felt alone through any of these things.

I also experience God’s grace, peace, love and forgiveness every day, I have received healing, financial blessings, success, I have had breakthrough in many issues in my life and with God’s strength and direction I have overcome many different situations that life has thrown at me.

To have a sense of purpose in my life is so special to me, I love the fact I can look beyond just myself. I have a warm and loving family and another extra special family in all my friends at church.

God has given me a heart and desire to care and serve people outside of my family and friends. I head up the Hospitality at One church, I run a small home group with my husband, I am involved in community mentoring and I have been on missions to Belgium and Belarus. Serving in these different areas in the church are so rewarding.

Most importantly I have great fun. Being a Christian is never boring, I feel I live life to the full.

When I lie in bed now I think about how blessed I am. I thank God that I found what I was looking for. Some people say that everyone has a God shaped hole that only he can fill, this was true for me. I knew something was missing, like the last piece of a jigsaw God was the piece that made me complete.

I can honestly say that I feel whole and complete and I am so glad that I responded to Jesus and gave him a chance.

 

For anyone who hasn’t I would say you really do have nothing to lose only more than you could ever imagine to gain.